Washington Congress voted Thursday to sweep away the ability of gun crime victims to sue firearms manufacturers and dealers for damages, answering complaints by President Bush and the gun industry that big jury awards could lead to bankruptcy.
Opponents called the 283-144 vote in the House proof of the gun lobby's power over the Republican-controlled Congress, but Bush said he looked forward to signing the bill. "Our laws should punish criminals who use guns to commit crimes, not law-abiding manufacturers of lawful products," the president said.
The Senate passed the bill, 65-31, in July.
The bill's passage was the National Rifle Assn.'s top legislative priority and gave Bush and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill a rare victory at a politically troubled time when several top White House officials and GOP congressional leaders are under investigation.
When Bush signs the measure into law, a half-dozen pending lawsuits filed by cities and counties against the gun industry would be dismissed. Antigun groups said pending suits by families of people murdered in gun crimes also could be dismissed.
"This is a get-out-of-liability-free card," said John Russo, city attorney for Oakland, one of 11 cities and counties in California whose suits against the industry would be dismissed if Bush signs the bill.